General Motors was one step ahead in the 1990s and delivered the first series-produced electric car of the modern era. The EV1 was conceived in 1990 and developed by AeroVironment based on the lessons learned from GM’s participation in the 1987 World Solar Challenge. Other companies involved included AC Propulsion, based in California, and Hughes Electronics, now known as DirectTV. It also inspired the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to begin making sure automakers have cleaner vehicles available.
The EV1 was launched in 1996 with lead-acid batteries with a range of 70 to 100 miles. GM only built 600 cars and they were rented out in Southern California and Arizona only to get things rolling. In 1999, a second generation came out that uses a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery with a range of 100-140 miles. In 2003, however, GM announced the end of the program, claiming it could not be made profitable. The automaker refused to renew the leases and began reclaiming the cars despite having enthusiastic and loyal customers. In 2006, former GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner claimed that his worst decision at GM was “dropping the EV1 electric car program and not investing the right resources in hybrids.”